$32,000,000 in Overstated RLDC Revenues, $3.08 Million in Receivables Kept on the Books, Illegal Gifts of Taxpayer Funds, Fraud, Retaliation & More Alleged in Federal Lawsuit
By Richard Gandon
It’s been almost five years; five long, difficult years since Melissa Reimer, the Town of Ramapo’s Supervisor of Fiscal Services first noticed irregularities in the Town’s books and brought them to the attention of her superiors.
In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Reimer’s attorney laid out a full list of the allegations of wrong doing on the part of Town Officials as well as the retaliatory action the plaintiff claims the Town took against her including 15 unsubstantiated charges and three disciplinary hearings.
Many of the allegations and conversations which are on tape or otherwise documented are strongly believed to be the impetus for the FBI raid and the seizure of hard drives, computers and documents from Town offices in May of 2013. Many have speculated about what the Feds went in looking for and this lawsuit finally sheds some light onto what Ramapo Times and the Rockland Star has reason to believe has become a much wider, deeper probe into alleged misdeeds at the town level and well beyond.
The following Town of Ramapo employees are being sued in their official capacity and as individuals:
Christopher St. Lawrence–Supervisor of the Town of Ramapo, self-appointed Ramapo Director of Finance & President of the Ramapo Land Development Corporation
Nathan Oberman, Town of Ramapo Receiver of Taxes & Deputy Director of Finance
Michael Klein, Town of Ramapo Attorney
Linda Condon, Town of Ramapo Administrative Assistant
Beth FInkelstein, Town of Ramapo Assistant Town Attorney
The suit alleges among other things:
- That in November 2009, Reimer approached her boss, Nathan Oberman, the Town’s Receiver of Taxes and Deputy Director of Finance about what she perceived to be “improper fiscal activities by government officials in the Town of Ramapo.” She told Oberman that the cash balances were very low, the budgeted revenues for 2009 and 2010 were overstated, expenditures were understated and that a $3.08 million receivable from the Ramapo Land Development Corporation (RLDC) could no longer be kept on the books because the one year time period allowable for such a practice was rapidly approaching.
- In 2009, the Town came perilously close to not being able to meet financial obligations including payroll.
- Mr. Oberman told Ms. Reimer to no longer generate emails or memos regarding the Town’s financial information because such documents could be obtained under Freedom of Information Law requests.
- The $3.08 million receivable still remains on the Towns books as of 2013.
- The Town improperly transferred money from the Ambulance Fund to the general fund without proper documentation, not as a loan and without board approval.
- In 2011, Ms. Reimer lodged a complaint that Supervisor St. Lawrence was planning to pay for playground equipment for two private residences in Monsey and that these purchases constitute illegal gifts of taxpayer money. (Not included in the suit, but according to information received by Ramapo Times and The Rockland Star, the playground equipment was indeed purchased and installed at two private residences in Monsey, one on Maple Avenue, the other on Blauvelt Rd.)
- Ramapo Town Attorney claimed that the payments were for cutting down trees.
- For approximately eight months, Ms. Reimer continued to email the defendants in the suit and other town employees about the trees and playground equipment.
- On August 21st, Ms. Reimer received vouchers signed by Supervisor St. Lawrence for payment to Green Tree Woodworks to pay for the playground equipment. Ms. Reimer refused to submit the vouchers because they were improper.
- During the later part of 2011, Ms. Reimer requested and received a copy of the Official Statement of the RLDC. After reviewing the statement, Ms. Reimer told RLDC director Aaron Troodler, Mr. Oberman and other employees of the Town that the statement was fraudulent and that the Town was overstating revenues by $32 million dollars. Ms. Reimer was concerned that the overstatement would potentially mislead purchasers of bonds issued by the RLDC.
- During the summer and early fall of 2011, Mr. Oberman allegedly provided Ms. Reimer with spreadsheets with current and prior period charge backs where the Town paid for expenditures through the General Fund and then looked for reimbursement from other funds and tax bases which were not responsible for the charges.
- In 2011 the Town paid for enhancements and assets for Provident Bank Park which is owned by the RLDC but instead of these assets and enhancements being showed as assets on the RLDC’s books, they were improperly kept on the Town’s books which served to hide the actual costs of the ball field from Ramapo taxpayers.
Complaints Fell on Deaf Ears, Auditor Screams at Reimer—Reimer Goes to the FBI!
The suit goes on to allege that Ms. Reimer repeatedly notified her superiors verbally, via email and text about the improper record keeping practices and that by March of 2012, Ms. Reimer was speaking with the Federal Bureau of Investigation about her many concerns.
Ms. Reimer was informed by an employee of the Town’s auditors O’Connor Davies, that she was no longer allowed to send emails to Ms. Reimer about assets for the ball field and that she was to speak with Supervisor St. Lawrence or Mr. Oberman.
In April of 2012, Ms. Reimer was questioned by an employee of O’Connor, Davies in order to fill out the fraud questionnaire for the Town’s 2011 annual audit. Ms. Reimer indicated that there was indeed fraudulent activity and also asked if O’Connor Davies was involved in those activities.
O’Connor Davies partner Domenic Consolo is alleged to have screamed at Ms. Reimer about her statements and told Ms. Reimer that she had better change her answers. Consolo then told St. Lawrence that Ms. Reimer was complaining about fraudulent activities. Ms. Reimer was then “urged and induced to provide more benign answers to the Fraud Questionnaire.”
After consulting with law enforcement and receiving the Fraud Questionnaire from the previous year from Mr. Consolo to assist her with providing the answers that he wanted, Ms. Reimer was able to complete the questionnaire while still managing to include language that indicated that things were not being handled properly by the Town.
Melissa Reimer is a Hero
“Melissa Reimer is a hero” said her attorney Fred Lichtmacher, “She didn’t stand still and keep quiet in the light of a lot of bad things going on to her own detriment; she opened her mouth (and got) fifteen charges, all of which were entirely bogus; not one of them had any merit to it and now it’s her turn.”
Tomorrow: More Alleged Wrongdoing and Retaliatory Action Brought by the Town of Ramapo